October 2008

UPDATE: Is Ideology About Status? was an unacknowledged inspiration for this post.

There have been many theories of conflict within a society that we may see reflected in politics. Most famous perhaps is that of economic classes, associated with Marxism. Some libertarians (and Calhoun) present their own of tax-payers and tax-eaters, though Bryan Caplan rejects that in favor of a jock vs nerd theory. As I’ve mentioned before, I agree with Ilya Somin that all of them are wrong. Many on both sides seem to think the divide is based on thinking with your head vs your heart (or “gut” as a tv personality popular with those kids these days puts it), but Caplan has found that is also wrong. A related divide many might imagine is the smart vs the stupid, but the ideologues on both sides tend to be similarly smart while moderates are generally quite dim (there may of course be temporary fluctuations, but they are not an enduring fundamental of politics). These may be on the right track though, because our political leanings are significantly heritable and the brain seems a good place to focus. This idea inspired Lee Sigelman to muse that rising rates of obesity among pregnant women may result in conservative dominance (hiss, the biological-yet-nurturist heresy). It’s also behind the Genetic Warfare site/post I pointed out a little while back. What I’m going to postulate is a divide between the intelligent based on the two immediate sub-components of g: verbal and visuo-spatial intelligence.

This occurred to me as I was reading the Bell Curve. I’ll excerpt the portion which set me thinking and should also explain the basic concepts: “A full-scale IQ score is the aggregate of many subtests. There are thirteen of them in the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-R), for example. The most basic division of the subtests is into a verbal IQ and a performance IQ. In the white samples, the verbal and performance IQ subscores tend to have abot the same mean, because IQ tests have been standardized on predominantly white populations. But individuals can have imbalances between these two IQs. People with high verbal abilities are likely to do well with words and logic. In school they excel in history and literature; in choosing a career to draw on those talents, they tend to choose law or journalism or advertising or politics. In contrast, people with high performance IQs – or, using a more descriptive phrase, ‘visuospatial abilities’ are likely to do well in the physical and biological sciences, mathematics, engineering, or other subjects that demand mental manipulation in the three physical dimensions or the more numerous dimensions of mathematics.” The prototypical high-verbal IQ types sound a hell of lot like Mencius Moldbug’s bete-noire, the Brahmins. As an introverted nerd, I am drawn to other similar types who are quite prideful in their abilities and often resentful or contemptuous of the clever-talking flim-flammers and “people persons”. And it seems like everybody hates lawyers. I am reminded of the Charles Murray quote “Who wants to be an elephant?“, though without the geniality. They like to say “The numbers/physics don’t lie” and “You can’t argue with a computer/reality”. We can see the bitter narcissism of the engineer in comments like this one, directed at those Wall Street masters-of-the-universe that just screwed up the financial markets. I have to admit I indulge in this myself. In the back of my mind lurks a variety of “producerism” in which inventors are the prototypical producers and bullshitters are prototypical parasites. This is tempered with the knowledge that engineers and applied scientists are especially vulnerable to pseudo-science that Ivory Tower egghead theorists have to shoot down. The “practical man” is often enough led by “theory” as much as a theorist, only illogically, incoherently and unknowingly.

With that out of the way let’s move aside from any discussion of the relative merits of these intellectual abilities and who deserves to be on the holding or receiving end of the stick. Does my idea hold water any more than the theories I dismissed at the beginning? I don’t have data on hand that can analyze this directly, so I’m going to throw out some things that might raise your Bayesian assignments of probability (although if they are underwhelming they should lower it from where you had adjusted it before reading). Not all groups have the same profile when it comes to these sub-components. Men and women differ, for example. They are generally believed to have the same average IQ, but men are more visuo-spatial and women more verbal. As Larry Summers pointed out to his detriment, men also have a higher variance when it comes to IQ than women. In politics there is some gender-gap, though it shows up primarily among the unmarried. Unmarried women lean left. Might this be because of the variance aspect? I don’t think so. The GOP seems to be a more homogenous party, which draws its support from the middle class (not the working class, as some stupidly think nowadays) with some college education but not grad school. I dispelled myths about that here. The Dems draw their support both from the poor/working-class and from some quite wealthy coastal elites in the richer Blue States, such as the finance guys attacked above. I don’t actually know if finance (or programming, for that matter) attracts verbal rather than visuo-spatial sorts, but I figured I’d throw that out there. So if this was simply about variance we might expect men (who as Roy Baumeister explains are high-variance in general) to go with the high-variance party, but they don’t.

It’s not only genders that differ along these sub-components. Ethnic groups do as well. However, the difference in their average IQ scores makes this tricky. The highest intelligence is found among Ashkenazi Jews. They are especially gifted verbally (Barry Sonnenfeld in his commentary for Miller’s Crossing points out the odd unusualness of Jewish cinematographers in Hollywood). Jews in the past had a similar profile to other “white ethnics”: they arrived as immigrants without much to their name, were enlisted by the Democratic urban machine and worked their way up in the face of nativist hostility (likely exaggerated in the retelling). What’s odd about Jews is that they are the most succesful ethnic group in America in economic terms, but vote for the party of the poor. The saying goes that they “Earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans”. Except Hispanics with higher income would be significantly to their right. According to Ann Coulter in Slander (yes, I’ve read her, is that a crime) Jews bloc-vote at the highest rate of any comparable demographic group. Second highest in her list are blacks, the economically least succesful ethnic group. Far different than Jews when it comes to IQ, yes? Except their advantage is also in verbal abilities. There is an ethnic group that seems to have a higher IQ than gentile whites, but with the opposite advantage in sub-components. These are East Asians. At present they lean left, but this may the temporary result of Christian-inflected culture war. They went right in 1992. Even today they aren’t as left-wing as other minorities like Jews or blacks. This would be better for my case if they went right, but the general party of outsiders/alienated effect could be swamping it. I’ll add here that American Indians (related to Asians way back) have a similar visuo-spatial orientation (and although their average IQ is lower than whites, northern tribes get the closest among peoples outside Europe or Asia) and lean right. Despite having very high poverty rates and being mistreated to an arguably greater extent than any other ethnic group in the country, they are very patriotic and are the most overrepresented in combat casualties relative to their population share. Perhaps due to their extreme learning experience they are also the most anti-immigrant.

All this talking about groups may seem like too much of a reach when I should be focusing on cognitive specialties. So let’s look at academia. Razib has some charts here on political leanings by subject. Subjects like English, History, Philosophy and even Theology are among the leftiest, and all draw on verbal smarts. Engineering and the hard sciences which draw more on visuo-spatial abilities are to their right, although this only means a little more conservatives and mostly just fewer liberals leading closer to parity. I would have expected Music to be leftier (don’t famous musicians have Hollywood/”creative class” type politics), but maybe Agnostic’s argument about the visuo-spatial component is shining through.

I don’t place a terribly high confidence in this theory and it could easily be blown out of the water by some data directly analyzing the correlation between the sub-components and political leaning. Anyone that can do so is encouraged to fire at will.
Addendum: Razib used the GSS to analyze the same question but came up with more ambiguous results than Half Sigma.

A commenter at Overcoming Bias points to this video of brain scientist Rodolfo Llinas. I had never heard of the site before, and like some other OB readers wonder why. There looks to be lots of other interesting videos there, including Pinker, Watson and Dennet. For a less informed discussion of psychology, see my recent post on The Myth of Psychotherapy by Thomas Szasz.

Starting with this post on the meth “epidemic” at The Art of the Possible I wound up with conclusive evidence that “White Stallions” by Saint Vitus is definitely about heroin. I previously believed there might have been a problem regarding the color, but that just shows what I know. Another thing I learned today is that the original version of the song is not nearly as good as the one recorded in Germany.

Finally! It’s called Post-Austrian Economics. I previously viewed Matthew as someone who, though interested, rejected Austrianism for some Post-Keynesian reasons, but if you really want a Post-Keynesian attack on Austrianism you’d be better off with Robert Vienneau’s blog. Mueller instead wants to advance the field, such as by demonstrating that Mises refutes Austrian orthodoxy. Most of this is well beyond my knowledge and I incline more toward the orthodox neo-classicals, but I always find him interesting anyway. I think I stated earlier that he was majoring in poli-sci, but according to his blog he’s supposed to be working on a degree in econ.

I started writing this about a month ago, but then misplaced the book, so my memory might be a bit fuzzy. I could go back and re-read the early chapters, but it’s not like I’m getting paid for this.

Chip lent me a number of books he rightly figured would be up my alley and the first one I went for (albeit after reading all the intros in Rants) was Thomas Szasz’ “The Myth of Psychotherapy”. This is my first direct dose of Szasz, with my previous readings coming from people like Bryan Caplan. It builds on his previous work like The Myth of Mental Ilness, which I think I’ve gotten the gist of well enough that this seems no major leap. Perhaps my knowledge about Szasz was deficient because a number of things caught me unexpected.

Szasz is perhaps best known as an “anti-psychiatrist” like R.D Laing, but he lampoons them saying “anti-psychiatrists and radical psychiatrists now pit their own charlatinisms against those of the regular psychiatrists” and on Laing specifically says that the recurrence of Franz Mesmer’s ideas in his and David Copper’s writing “illustrates the poverty of the revolutionary-messianic imagination”.

Szasz approvingly cites Richard Weaver, the famous (among traditional conservatives) Southern Agrarian on ideas and rhetoric. Szasz was hardly a southerner, even at heart, and even calling him a “cultural conservative” like Murray Rothbard might be a stretch. Weaver was also apparently a Platonist, and Szasz lambastes Plato and philosophers like him in ancient Greece as proto-psychiatrist “soul doctors”, praising Aristotle for breaking with Plato’s ideas. I thought of Szasz as hostile to the religious (at least the Western variety) for saying mankind was “plagued” by “monotheism, monarchy, monogamy and, in our age, monomedicine”. But in this book Szasz promotes Jesus and Martin Luther, admittedly in contrast to the Pharisees and Catholic Church, but in part because they were genuinely religious (this may be why he prefers Jung to Freud).

Szasz really despises Freud and gets into Kevin MacDonald territory when discussing him (speaking of whom, I received an email from a reader thinking I would be interested in claims that MacDonald uses forgeries and misquotes, though I don’t know how I signaled interest). As Szasz is ethnically Jewish himself, he can more easily get away with this sort of thing. He titles one chapter “Sigmund Freud: The Jewish Avenger”. As it was written in 1979, he doesn’t cite Kevin but did put John Cuddihy’s “Ordeal of Civility: Freud, Marx, Levi-Strauss, and the Jewish Struggle With Modernity” in the footnotes (the first two are major topics of MacDonald’s, but his writing has concerned a different Strauss). Szasz views Freud as a man who only claimed to reject religion in general but was in fact a believing Jew who invented psychoanalysis as a weapon against Christians/gentiles and only sought to undermine their religion. I did not find his evidence for at least the first part convincing in the slightest. There is so much I find faulty in that chapter it will take me a while to run through it.

Freud’s pro-Zionism does not indicate religious belief, as many ethnic Jews have fought for Israel while regarding their religious comrades as deluded. Zionism is just another nationalist movement that emerged as the nation-state triumphed over churches. That Freud sent cablegrams to his family on High Holidays just says to me that he wasn’t Scrooge.

The best bit of evidence Szasz presents for a religious rather than ethnic/racial identification is Freud’s quote that “My parents were Jews, and I have remained a Jew myself”. That would seem to imply he could do otherwise, but Szasz himself (I don’t know why, as it goes against his argument) says that we need to closely examine just what Freud meant by that. Szasz’ interpretation rests on a quote from Freud that he refused to feel ashamed or inferior due to his “descent” or “‘race'”, which is a matter of ethnic/racial identification rather than religious. Szasz precedes by the former Freud quote by wondering why he never declared himself an atheist or agnostic, but in a letter to a pastor he contrasts himself as a “completely godless Jew” to “all the pious”. His criticism of religion doesn’t even have the ‘mono’ qualifier that Szasz gave, saying “all of them are illusions”. Szasz himself notes that Nietzche and Voltaire said many similar things (although like another anti-clerical Frenchman the latter despised atheism).

Freud explicitly summed it up with “Although I have been alienated from the religion of my forebears for a long time, I never lost the feeling of solidarity with my people”. He emphasizes this racial rather than religious aspect with his references to “Aryans” rather than Christians or even Gentiles. Szasz thinks he catches Freud in contradiction for claiming at one point that “we lack that mystical element” (Szasz inserts “[Jews]” there) and elsewhere referring to the commonalities that form a bond among Jews as “miraculous”. The language certainly owes a debt to religion, but this is really just the brain-numbing effect of Einstein’s “infantile disease” (which Einstein himself was susceptible to). The characteristics of Jews that Freud harps on admiringly are their “tenacity” and being “tough” even (or especially) in contrast to a “Royal Prussian Teuton”, common traits that nationalists ascribe to their brethren.

Szasz recounts how Freud admired Hannibal against the Romans, and tellingly how he viewed their struggle as symbolic of that between Jewry and the Catholic church. Szasz refers to Hannibal as an “African” and does follow Freud in calling him Semitic without adding scare-quotes. But in fact Hannibal’s Carthage was a Phoenician colony merely located in (northern) Africa, and the Phoenicians were a Semitic people. As a pagan, Hannibal had nothing for a Jew to find appealing religiously, but in fact worshiped the figure most frequently denounced in the Hebrew Bible, Ba’al. Freud’s symbolic explanation fits perfectly with Szasz’ theory, but the normality of admiration is testified by the comparative infrequency of people who can name his Roman opponents (don’t do it in the comments).

The one area recounted where Freud slightly subverts Jewish ethnic/racial pride is in his analysis of Moses, who believed was not a Jew at all but an Egyptian. As Moses is one of the most revered human figures in the Jewish religion, I don’t think that’s a minor dissent. Szasz downplays it and tries to contrast his hostility to other figures including Jesus by quoting a remark Freud made to an acquaintance Jesus “could have been” deluded. The famous Christian apologist C. S. Lewis declared that Jesus was certainly insane if he was not in fact God incarnated, which makes Freud sound quite wishy-washy. Szasz claims that because of his Jewish feelings Freud spared Moses any ascription of mental illness, but in The Psychology of Prophetism Koenraad Elst claims that Freud diagnosed Moses with a “reactive psychosis”. The piece of evidence Szasz labels “decisive” is that on fleeing the Nazis for America Freud wrote “It is high time Ahasuerus came to rest somewhere”. Ahauserus is a legend made up by European Christians, not by Jews who wouldn’t think Jesus capable of cursing anyone. His comment smacks more of self-pity than “anti-Gentilism”.

Szasz himself seems caught in contradiction, at least with those he lets speak for him. He quotes Rothman and Isenberg on Totem and Taboo: “The volume ostensibly deals with the origins of religion. Yet it is Christian practice and ritual that are examined in terms of primitive drives and defense mechanisms”. I haven’t read the book and don’t know whether it singles out Christianity and leaves Judaism unscathed, but elsewhere Szasz writes that Freud’s assertion of alienation has been shown false and his merely not practicing rituals was “a very different thing”. To the extent that rituals are unimportant that undermines the claim of his specific attack on Christianity and to the extent that they are it undermines that of his lack of religious faith.

One bit I thought curious is a quote from Carl Schorske claiming that Freud was hostile to both the Roman Catholic Church and the Habsburgs of Austria-Hungary. Perhaps because Szasz did not think much of it no evidence is given for the latter. Earlier in the book Szasz indicts Freud for defending Julius Wagner-Jauregg and his use of electroshock treatments (which Freud by then regarded as quackery) during the Great War on the Empire’s soldiers with “war neuroses”. That would have been a fine time for an enemy of the regime to denounce them (and their military, which according to Karl Popper erected more barriers to Jewish advancement than other aspects of Austrian society) and the Austrian noble-born Ritter von Jauregg for their brutality. That he did not do so lends support to the claim that he in fact supported the rather liberal Habsburgs and rightly feared the nationalism that would replace the dissolution of their empire. I’ll note hear that his fellow Jewish-Austrian Habsburg fan Ludwig von Mises. Due to the new paleolibertarian “fusionism” we now see visions of Von Mises Washed in the Blood of Jesus, but in fact he thought religion incompatible with a rational economic system.

Szasz approvingly quotes Karl Popper saying “Admittedly, it is understandable that people who were despised for their racial origin should react by saying that they were proud of it. But racial pride is not only stupid but wrong, even if provoked by racial hatred”. I suspect many people would agree with the sentiment behind that statement, but not take it quite so far. Although both of Jewish descent, neither Popper nor Szasz identified as Jewish. I think it is that unusually strong distaste for nationalism or ethnic pride that causes Szasz to accuse Freud to misrepresent his religious beliefs when it is actually Szasz misrepresenting Freud in that regard.

Phew! Done with Freud. Szasz devotes fewer pages to Jung, which I’m sure is due in part to his relative insignificance compared to Freud but also because Szasz doesn’t dislike him as much. Jung was of course an early adherent of Freudianism and committed many of Freud’s sins, so Szasz can’t let him off completely. It is precisely because Jung went in even more ridiculous directions and admitted that what he was doing was not merely science but religion (at least some of the time) that Szasz goes easy on him. Jung was the son of a pastor and abandoned Christianity at an early age. However, while Victor von Weizsacker is quoted as saying that Jung maintained a resentment against the religion of his birth, he was certainly not hostile to religion generally. He regarded mental ilness as the result of a decline in religion in Europe and that the psychoanalytic cure for it would have to be a spiritual one, even as Freud was fighting such accusations of founding a pseufo-religion from their opponents. In recalling his dissapointment over the mystery of communion he recalls “‘Why, that is not religion at all,’ I thought ‘It is an absence of God; the church is a place I should not go to. It is not life which is there but death.'” No true Scotsman, anyone? Later in praising Jung’s more individualistic, sympathetic and admittedly rhetorical (as opposed to scientific/medical) to his patients Szasz says the Swissman has summed up “the essence of true psychotherapy by whatever name it might be called”. What is this about “true” psychotherapy? It seems to me that Jung and Szasz are using words like “real” and “true” to mean “what I approve of”. If Szasz believed in such a thing as “true psychotherapy” then it was a poor decision to title his book “The Myth of Psychotherapy”.

In contrast to the more openly mystic Jung, I think Freud’s grasping at scientism has some merit that Szasz derides. Szasz doesn’t seem to think much of Freud’s distinction between the conscious and unconscious, although he also attacks him for dismissing such a distinction in his defense of Wagner-Jauregg. I don’t see why that would be controversial. Our stomach, heart and lungs (in decreasing order) all operate independently of our conscious direction. It is not necessary for us to think about their operation and if the job was entrusted with our frontal cortex it would probably screw things up. When the doctor hits our knee with the mallet we see the same unconscious action in an organ we normally exercise more control over. Much of our thought is not explicit reasoning but rather automatic (I frequently follow the wrong directions somewhere because I am more in the habit of going nearly that way to a more common destination), so it should not be surprising that much of what goes on in our brain is not at the forefront of our consciousness. Studies done on people with a split corpus callosum show how unaware we can be of the cause of our actions. Freud, like Leo Strauss, was not wrong in declaring that there was something hidden from us. They were wrong to think they had the explanation for it. And Freud may have misused Martin Luther (as with the Odysseus myth) in denying free-will, but that doesn’t refute John Calvin. If we reject the existence of a soul or “life-force” then we are left with materialism and a biological brain. It may be true that we can better model Kasparov by thinking about his goals than the inner-workings of his gray-matter, but that doesn’t mean the processing in his mush isn’t the cause of Kasparov’s moves. We just don’t know enough about the mush or what are good chess moves.

It may sound like I’m down on Szasz, or this book, but I actually enjoyed it. There’s a lot of weird, interesting history he gets into and the people and practices he mocks have it coming. One of the best parts is in the last chapter where he simply has a long string of quotations on mental “ilnesses” and “treatments” that he feels free to leave stand without comment, as they simply mock themselves. That goes pretty well with Tom Wolfe’s The Me Decade. As enjoyably mockable as that is, I now wish I had started with Szasz’ previous attacks on our conceptions of mental ilness and the state apparatus around it.

Larison had another post on the Russia/Georgia conflict and more specifically an argument between Gleen Greenwald and Cathy Young. What I found interesting was this paragraph from Young:

When Cold War-era leftists pleaded for a more understanding view of the Soviet Union, they were at least arguing on behalf of a power that, despite its abuses, at least outwardly embraced many “progressive” ideals: free medicine, housing and education, extensive social services, secularism, women’s rights, relative social equality. The Putin/Medvedev Russia is the opposite of everything today’s left supports: It’s a land where billionaires flaunt their $20,000 watches and $350 million yachts, social services are slashed to a minimum, religion is entangled with the state, ethnic bigotry flourishes, labor unions are trampled, and homophobia is rampant and officially condoned.

So shouldn’t more conservatives be applauding Putin? Considering his popularity (and compare him to the American-praised but Russian-despised Yeltsin), he’s much more successfully pulled off something like Douthat & Salaam’s Grand New Party of Sam’s Club than I expect an American Republican to. Can any of them seriously say they think Putin has done a worse job of running Russia than Bush has of America? Instead most of them fall in line behind McCain. When the wars on Iraq and Terror were big in the news many on the right even claimed the mantle of liberalism/progressivism by denouncing the treatment of women and homosexuals in the lands of swarthy folk. Maybe Andrew Sullivan cared, but the rest just seemed to latch onto something they could bash lefties with. Although they’re hard to beat when it comes to anti-communism, at least there’s something revolutionary (and even modernist, though they may not like to admit it) about islamism, and around the 70s in Ba’athism, that would set off an allergic reaction in a Russell Kirk or Eric Vogelin. Putin’s Russia, in contrast, seems like China to be an ideology-free (they’ve had a hell of a mistake to learn from) regime intent on pursuing its national interest without regard for liberal niceties. What’s a conservative to object to without adopting liberal principles that would suggest even more blame for American foreign policy?

One of the things I like about Reason is precisely what Michael Blowhard hates: the contrarian trumpeting of tacky hedonist tech-liberationist materialism. I’m a frugal and boring guy myself, but as a philistine I find their assault on aesthetics appealing. So what is supposed libertarian Cathy Young doing complaining about the flaunting of wealth and slashing of social services (I don’t know if Putin actually did that, if so my hat’s off to him for violating my expectation of him only making moves he knows will be very popular)? And haven’t mainstream American libertarians from the New Deal onward (I don’t think Young is a fan of Kevin Carson) always disliked labor unions? Maybe I’m basing that too heavily on Radicals for Capitalism. As I recall it was just lefties who complained about us shunning one of the few secular anti-Sadaam forces in Iraq due to hosility to organized labor. While Ilkka Kokkarinen and Half Sigma stupidly blast the left for abandoning their Old Left concerns, the fact is that their opportunistic pro-unionism trumps their commitment to fair elections with secret ballots.

I recall one example of a conservative that seemed to have respect for the illiberalism of “The Other”. It was an Australian talking about how a former radical feminist had adopted the cause of the aborigines and pushed for the opposite of the policies she had previously favored for her European-descended countrymen precisely because she realized they were destructive to the culture. I might be misremembering and the author could have denounced the behavior traditional among aborigines but now I can’t find it even after doing searches on The Fourth Checkraise, which I think is how I found it.

UPDATE: Elizabeth, who betrays her gender through her reading habits alone, remembers the source.

Aschwin de Wolf was once proprietor of the Against Politics site, which I liked enough to mirror after it went down (I have since removed the mirror as he hosts the material at his new site). His interest these days seems to mostly be in transhumanism/life-extension but he still makes room for non-cognitivism (I think Hopefully Anonymous would be peeved at the opportunity cost) and expressed dissapointment that Amazon was out of copies of Nine Banded Books’ republished edition of L. A. Rollins’ Myth of Natural Rights. It would be rather impolite to ignore someone specifically thanked in the book, so he was sent a copy to review and has done an admirable job. It is from Aschwin de Wolf that Chip found Jorge Amador’s review of the original that he excerpted and it is also because of him that I included the bit about the contractarian approach at the end of my preface. So I encourage everybody to read it here. If you’re interested in things like cryonics you should explore more of his site.

Jeremy Jerome Tuccille once said “It usually begins with Ayn Rand”. It didn’t for me. By the time I heard of her I considered myself a libertarian but the excerpts of her writing and what was written about her thought by both supporters and detractors repulsed me. And the presumed crap isn’t even in digestible chunks either. A thousand-page book containing a 56-page speech? No thanks. Now to that list I add Margaret Atwood. A writer I’d like to have never read is Robert Jordan. I’m glad I figured out the Wheel of Time series wasn’t heading anywhere as early as I did. The concept can be expanded to other media. When I was in college I tried using Mapquest to find a record-store but then gave up trying to find it. The next day I read that I could hear the whole album online as part of a free promotion and I fond out it was lousy. I was glad to have given up the previous day. A little while back my parents tried to rent The Happening (I guess they hadn’t heard any reviews), but the DVD machine screwed up and gave them something else. After they watched whatever it was they got instead they went to return it and someone saw the (incorrect label) and went off on what a horrible film that was. Anyone else got examples?

Anna Schwartz (the Schwartz of Friedman & Schwartz) came out against the actions of the Fed and Treasury. Since the current chairman of the Fed praised her analysis of the Fed’s culpability for the Great Depression, you’d think that would carry some weight. Tyler Cowen disagrees, because why would a smart guy like Bernanke take such actions if they weren’t TRULY necessary? Cowen admits that there is little direct evidence, but that isn’t decisive for him. I think he is placing far too much weight on one person as a black box. His reason #3 that we just can’t afford not to DO SOMETHING sounds in the outside view like all the wrong claims for drastic action taken in the past. I quote an old paper by one of his colleagues:

But one of the main lessons of the history of totalitarianism is that moderation and inaction are underrated. Few problems turned out to be as “intolerable” as they seemed to people at the time, and many “problems” were better than the alternative. Countries that “did nothing” about poverty during the twentieth century frequently became rich through gradual economic growth. Countries that waged “total war” on poverty frequently not only choked off economic growth, but starved.

A number of MR commenters make reference to a recent drive to DO SOMETHING we couldn’t afford not to, which Tyler admits he got wrong. Hopefully Anonymous made this comparison a little while back.

I’d like to hear Tyler’s response to Kling.

VERY LATE UPDATE: Scott Sumner indicts Schwartz for “neo-Austrianism” and accuses her of promoting a view her Monetary History attacked.

Check it out. Has Bob Wright been reading my mind? I haven’t watched much of it yet.
UPDATE: My verdict – Disappointing. I wanted to see the Lord of Darkness. Eli was also fairly reasonable most of the time.

Apparently their evolutionary history with humans has made canines dumber. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, I prize loyalty over brains when it comes to dogs. They have to be competent hunters though.
My previous post on the topic here.

Via Drezner, some info on the Foreign Service Officer test. Rather pathetic. I read this Something Awful thread about becoming an FSO because my brother (currently in ROTC) somehow sensed that majoring in International Studies and considering that route was guaranteed to incense me, and they made it sound harder. Maybe the bar has been lowered.

The notion that Joe the Plumber who Owns a Small Business and Makes $250,000/year and Goes to Political Rallies to Question the Candiates–that this dude somehow represents the average American is patently absurd. […] The “average American” makes more like foedy, fiddy, sisty grand, works in an office, and exists only to amuse the world-spanning, multi-nodal, transpersonal superconsciousness of The Internet on company time.

So says IOZ. Also see The Real America! And just so you know, I waited until I got home before reading and writing this.

I originally heard of this song from TakiMag, but now a commenter at Ilkka’s linked to the video. I find it kind of odd that the kind of very old timey social conservatism is expressed by a hip modern band from Quebec. Perhaps because it was in French it didn’t quite do it for me as De La Rey does (though I feel incomplete listening to that without a beer at hand). Though I haven’t read him, the same sort of revulsion for modernity seems to be shared by their fellow Francophone Michel Houllebecq, whose lurid stories oddly received a plug from Michael Burleigh in Sacred Causes.

In my post on “Demonic Males” I noted that unlike chimpanzees, bonobos do not hunt monkeys. Whoops. Guess I’ll have to update that old post. The link from there didn’t work for me, so here’s a little more at a different post.

On an unrelated note, via Volokh a paper on judicial interpretation that should be made into a children’s book.

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